Report’s release signals historical turning point

NANAIMO – Aboriginal leaders say Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations must be implemented.

Members of Nanaimo’s aboriginal community hope that the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report means the community can move forward and heal.

The commission, established to examine abuses suffered by First Nations children at residential schools, released its final report last week. A preliminary report with 94 recommendations was released in June.

Nanaimo resident Vicky Stevens, 72, an Ojibwa First Nation member and residential school survivor, said she was taken away at age six to attend a Jesuit-run school in Spanish, Ont.

Stevens said she was beaten and never saw her parents and grandmother again. She said the report is “a door that has opened for all of [the] nations.”

“I’m hoping that it will give resources that the people need for their children and their children’s children, that they can get healing in their healing centres and in their own culture,” said Stevens.

Natasha Bob, Nanaimo school trustee and Nanoose band councillor, said she is an intergenerational survivor of residential school.

Bob said she has mixed feelings about the final report. She is sad that some of her family members died before the truth and reconciliation process began, but feels she can start to let go and be a part of a generation that can move forward.

“The TRC final report is an historical turning point, an opportunity to collectively heal from and wash away the pain that came from residential schools,” said Bob, in an e-mail. “My biggest wish is that it will overhaul the stereotype of indigenous people as victims, and allow Canadians to see the resilience and determination that indigenous people possess.”

Doug White III, director for Vancouver Island University’s centre for pre-confederation treaties and reconciliation and Snuneymuxw band councillor, said it is not just possible to implement all the recommendations, it is imperative.

“The final report of the commission thoroughly sets out the implications of the residential school system and the damage and harm they inflicted upon First Nations peoples that continue to this day,” White said via e-mail. “Over-representation in the child welfare system and the criminal justice system are two critical aspects of this. So too are the horrible and unacceptable gaps between First Nations and non-First Nations peoples in Canada in education and health.

“They also point to institutional change necessary to facilitate reconciliation such as with respect to Canada’s legal system and education system. All of this is very doable and very necessary,” White said.

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